A Labour councillor in Birmingham has apologised after backing calls for a school to scrap LGBT-inclusive education.
Councillor Mohammed Idrees, who represents the Alum Rock ward on Birmingham City Council, had intervened in a local row after parents protested the lessons at Parkfield Community School.
A group of Muslim parents had complained that an LGBT-inclusive education programme at the school—called No Outsiders—contradicted their faith by teaching about same-sex relationships and LGBT+ issues.
Idrees spoke out in support of the parents, who had threatened to pull their children out of lessons unless the programme was scrapped.
Mohammed Idrees criticises ‘very aggressive’ LGBT-inclusive education
The councillor told the Birmingham Mail on January 26: “Parents feel very strongly about the policy which, I’m told, has been promoted quite aggressively.
“Children, for me, are too young to be learning about this. It’s not a good idea.”
He told the newspaper: “With it being a predominantly Muslim school, the sensitivities of the parents must be discussed.
“I cannot comment on what’s being taught in the classroom but the school and teachers must be sensitive to Muslim parents and Islam.”
LGBT Labour hit out at councillor’s comments
The comments incensed campaigners from the party’s local LGBT+ wing, LGBT Labour West Midlands, who noted that the stance taken by Idrees was directly in contradiction with Labour’s own policy on the issue.
“CIIr Idrees’s statements offend the values and traditions of the Labour Party.”
— LGBT Labour West Midlands
In a public statement, the group said: “CIIr Idrees’s statements offend the values and traditions of the Labour Party.
“We know that the comments do not reflect the views of the Labour Group but they have understandably caused concern among LGBT+ members of our party and the wider LGBT+ community in Birmingham.”
“We respect CIIr Idrees right to his deeply held beliefs this should not come at the cost of the LGBT+ community including LGBT+ students at the school,” the statement continued.
“Using Thatcherite language about the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ recalls a painful legacy of discrimination for many. We believe all schools should teach tolerance of all people regardless sexual orientation, gender, race or religion.”
The Labour-run Welsh government announced in 2018 that it will introduce LGBT-inclusive Relationships and Sexuality Education lessons in all schools.
Councillor ‘sorry’ for remarks about LGBT-inclusive education
Idrees has since posted an apology for his comments in his own public statement, published on Monday (January 28).
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He said: “I wish to apologise for my comments to the Birmingham Mail.
“I overstepped the mark in my efforts to state the views of some of the parents, but I fully support Birmingham City Council’s policies in relation LGBT issues.
“I got it wrong and have already apologised to the Leader of the Council and to the chief whip this morning.”
He continued: “No Outsiders is a programme that has clearly upset some parents – with some threatening to take their children out of school.
“That is clearly something we all want to avoid and I want to work with both the school and the parents to help us reach a better understanding.”
Idrees said: “I have never had a problem with the LGBT community and I am proud that Birmingham is an inclusive and tolerant city and there is no place here for homophobia or any other form of discrimination.
“The best way to reach an understanding on this issue is to talk and I’m determined to work with both the school and the parents on this.”
Liam Byrne, MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill, added: “There are LGBT people of every race, faith and community. It is our responsibility to let these children know that there is nothing wrong with them.
“Our goal is to build a city where we support each other in flourishing, feeling safe from fear, hatred and disrespect. And that’s what makes us the greatest city in the world.”